Door of a tomb (tutu'liang) with human figure

Sa'dan Toraja peoples
18th or 19th century
more object details

General Description

For centuries the Toraja people have buried their elite dead in tombs cut into the face of steep limestone cliffs – “the house from which no smoke rises.” The entrances are sealed with almost square wooden doors carved with the image of the head of a water buffalo or, less frequently, a human guardian figure. The guardian figure on this door depicts a warrior, as indicated by his top knot and tattoos. His face displays an ethereal expression of watchfulness, and he stands with his hands raised as if to bar the entrance to intruders. The surface of the door is decorated with sinuous motifs, all of which are associated with protection, fertility, and well-being. The Toraja believed that the ancestors in the tomb bring blessings to the living. This figure served the dual function of ensuring not only that the dead rest in peace but that the living should enjoy peace and long life, too.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.

Web Resources

    Learn more about the Ten Tana Toraja Traditional Settlements.

  • Australian Museum~ Learn more about the burial practices of the Toraja in Sulawesi.